May 13, 2014

Each year the Westside Urban Forum awards projects, programs, policies and academic studies that exemplify high-quality city planning and community building. The design awards acknowledge all sizes of work, built or unbuilt, that help revitalize or contribute to livability, planning and building throughout Los Angeles County.

This year, Meléndrez’s project Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway (MANGo) is a design award winner. The plan connects the beach and future transit stations with one of Santa Monica’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Recently unanimously adopted by city council, the plan outlines a livable corridor with traffic calming and pedestrian and bicycle facilities, favoring low-speeds and local automobile trips over cut-through traffic, creating a comfortable experience for neighbors, pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and skill levels.

The Meléndrez team developed a robust and creative community outreach effort that included a number of hands-on neighborhood workshops in addition to its centerpiece “PopUp MANGo”. Workshops included walk and bike audits, and over 25 small group interactive stakeholder meetings. PopUp MANGo was a temporary neighborhood installation of the proposed greenway improvements for Michigan Avenue in the Pico Neighborhood of Santa Monica. PopUp MANGo was the first event of its kind in the region, bringing the public planning process to the streets, generating feedback from the surrounding neighborhood, and using direct public comment to craft the final plan.

PopUp MANGo gave citizens an opportunity to see and evaluate public realm improvements during the planning process, hands-on. The event showcased temporary installations of possible improvements for the new greenway corridor such as: traffic circles, chicanes, curb extensions, diverters, enhanced landscaping, mini-parks, and places for neighbors to gather. Using donated items, such as straw wattle, plants and trees to fill installations, giant flower stencils painted with colorful spray chalk, and traffic signage for safety, the design team was able to replicate functioning traffic calming devices and a neighborhood mini-park for a temporary experiment. Water-wise and native plants were also added to each installation along the corridor.

The event was fun and community-oriented with local musicians, food trucks with MANGo themed treats, booths for local organizations, arts activities for children, bilingual translators circulating throughout the event, a bike tour led by a local community group, and a ‘passport’ program that guided people through the installations and gauged feedback. With over 400 people in attendance, the feedback gathered directly influenced and led to the creation of a locally-rooted and locally-vetted design greenway.

For the complete list of 2014 awards: http://ui.memberclicks.net/design-awards

Check out a video of the PopUp MANGo event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EQo7iW0NEU

Check out a video about the overall MANGo project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-ry8YB20GQ&feature=c4-over